The Chicago Bears hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, and won a close game 20-19. They came back from another double-digit deficit, losing 13-0 until David Montgomery ran the ball for a touchdown with 1:48 left in the first half.
The Bears improved to 4-1 on the season, and got their first win against a top-tier team. Here are three takeaways from the Bears Week 5 game.
The Bears pass rush is still elite
Over the past two seasons, the Bears defense has been very strong. In 2019 and 2020, they are top ten in the league for points and yards allowed. However, they have not been able to get as much pressure or takeaways as they did in the 2018 season.
This is largely because of opposing teams finding ways to shut down pass rusher Khalil Mack. The former Defensive Player of the Year had a down year in 2019, as he was regularly double or even triple-teamed by offensive linemen. He had his worst Pro Football Focus grade of his career, at 86.2.
A PFF grade of 86.2 is still an amazing year by most standards, but for Khalil Mack, it is disappointing. Mack’s struggles to regularly pressure the quarterback last year hurt the Bears defense.
However, this year the Bears have been able to turn that around. Mack has produced at least five pressures in each of his five games this year, and has the third best PFF grade among all defensive linemen.
This was on display Thursday against the Buccaneers, as he had three quarterbacks hits, two sacks and a third sack taken away by a penalty. He was not the only one getting to the quarterback as the Bears had eight total quarterback hits and three sacks against a solid Tampa Bay offensive line.
These statistics reflect a team with elite pass rushing ability. The re-emergence of Khalil Mack has a large impact on the Bears defense, and if he can keep this up, Chicago’s defense will be a true force to be reckoned with.
The Bears are playoff contenders
Chicago’s three previous wins were not impressive by any means. They barely beat the Lions, Giants and Falcons, who have one combined win. This makes the Bears 4-1 record look much less impressive. However, a win against a top-tier team like Tampa Bay shows that the Bears might be playoff contenders.
Although the Buccaneers are banged up, with important players like wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard inactive, Tampa Bay is not an easy team to beat. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, is debatable the greatest football player of all time, and they have a really strong defense.
The Bears might be in the running for the playoffs, but they are not yet Super Bowl contenders.
Their defense is definitely good enough to be a Super Bowl defense, but the offense is a different story. If the Bears really want to be a competitive team in the playoffs, something will need to change in their offense.
Offensive line might be an issue
The Bears offensive line was far from perfect on Thursday, allowing seven quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and three sacks. The Bears also only gained 35 rushing yards on 14 attempts. They finally scored their first rushing touchdown, after four games in which they were unable to do so.
Even worse, their best offensive lineman James Daniels left with an injury in the third quarter, and is likely out for the year.
The 25 year-old Alex Bars is set to replace Daniels. Bars is very inexperienced, as he had played 13 career snaps before Thursday’s game. After entering the game for Daniels, he struggled at times, and made multiple mistakes while blocking.
There are already issues at the quarterback position. Even though he is more comfortable in the pocket than former starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles is far from perfect and does not have scrambling ability. Chicago does not need another reason for the quarterback and the running game to struggle.
The Bears already sub-par offense has a struggling offensive line, especially now with James Daniels falling to injury. If the Bears want to be a serious, competitive team, the offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and Alex Bars will need to step up.
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